Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Under what conditions would you abandon your gear?


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Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:21:51 MDT Print View

Last weekend there was a big storm in my area that dropped almost a foot of rain in the mountains. There were almost 100 people rescued out of the backcountry.

Among the groups were some wilderness instruction groups. They were trapped behind the Sespe river unable to get out. Some of people (not all) in the group attempted to find a way out. They abandoned their gear and were found struggling on a cliff. SAR helped them rapel down the cliff to safety. Some of them were treated for hypothermia.

What I do not understand is why they abandoned their gear. The only thing I can think of is that either they were hypothermic and not thinking straight or else their gear was too heavy and they couldn't bushwack with their big backpacks. If the latter is true, it's another vote for learning how to go light.

I can think of no circumstances aside from actually falling into a creek that I would abandon my gear. Would you ever abandon yours?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:25:17 MDT Print View

Not unless it was a choice between the gear and my life. I don't know what that would be...maybe a water situation like you said.

Everything I carry has a purpose and use to keep me safe and healthy while out in the wilds. I don't carry anything that doesn't serve on of those two purposes. Abandoning my stuff would just make things tougher.

Edited by T.L. on 03/24/2011 14:26:36 MDT.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
RE: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:34:10 MDT Print View

Can't really think of any as that implies the gear is hindering instead of helping. Maybe with heavier stuff getting caught by a flash flood ("gully washer") and having to go vertical. Maybe that's what happened to the groups caught by the Sespe.

Edited by hknewman on 03/24/2011 14:34:40 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:39:24 MDT Print View

"I can think of no circumstances aside from actually falling into a creek that I would abandon my gear. Would you ever abandon yours?"


If the trail head is near enough AND you need to get there to get help fast enough... then yeah, maybe jettison the load. But otherwise, I can't think of many instances where one would wish to cut away one's defense against exposure, cold, wet, hunger, etc.

Crossing a stream, one should unbuckle one's pack straps. But unless your pack is dragging you down, I believe people should think twice about letting go of the pack. The pack can be useful in shielding you from hard knocks against rocks and all. As well, once you manage to get out, you will likely want to change into dry clothing. Which is why a contractor bag nicely secured makes a lot more sense here than a near-useless pack cover...

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:39:57 MDT Print View

I can't think of any situation in which I would abandon my gear. Even if I fell in the creek, unless the pack were lost downstream! I have my insulation (clothing, sleeping bag) in dry bags (which I prefer to the waterproof pack liner I used to use). The one time this happened to me, it was just a case of dumping the water out of the pack and carrying on.

The one situation I can think of in which I would abandon some gear (not all of it) is an injury requiring me to self-evacuate but to keep the load light (ankle sprain, maybe), or severe enough injury to my dog that I'd have to haul him out on a travois (no way could I carry an 80-lb. dog). Neither of these are situations that would justify pushing the button on my PLB. In that case, I'd keep essential shelter, insulation, rain gear but probably leave most of the rest--more than two days' food, cooking gear, anything else I could get along without for 2-3 days--probably including my camera. Note, though, that I'd send someone back afterwards, or go myself, for the abandoned stuff!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:47:58 MDT Print View

I can't think of any, unless it was easy to get to a trailhead and I needed to run there to obtain additional help for another person. Good thing with UL gear is that you can run with your back on most times.

In the situation you described, it would have probably been better for people to stay put and get inside a shelter (if available) than try and cross swollen streams that would have probably decreased in a day or less. It is better to be a day late and let friends/family worry, than die.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:51:25 MDT Print View

I think the correct answer is never (barring getting knocked over in a river, and even then trying to make some effort to keep it as a flotation aid.) The pack and all your stuff is basically a life support system for the wilderness. Unless there's a really good reason to leave (forest fire, flood, serious injury etc) it's usually a better strategy to hunker down and wait it out (besides, it's extra time in the wilderness which is why you went out there to begin with.)

FYI, here is a link to the local newspaper report (2nd story): Sespe Sun

Edited by erdferkel on 03/24/2011 15:02:54 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 14:55:03 MDT Print View

Another recent situation where gear was abandoned, this time b/c the hiker was in dense rhododendron terrain:

http://www.wkrn.com/story/14297071/lost-hiker-airlifted-out-of-smokies


I wonder if any BPL'ers on the AT (Freefall or Jack) have heard about this incident.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 15:13:38 MDT Print View

I would abandon my gear only if I were trapped or hung up on it, or it somehow hindered my escape.

If a bear has one end, he gets it.

A two-legged snake robs me.

If there is a fire, landslide or the like that requires instant reaction and exit.

That is why I carry my pocket survival kit:

knife
fire starter
tinder
whistle
LED light

The other scenario I have thought about is going for help to rescue another person. I would take essentials, emergency shelter, water, a little food, and extra clothing. So I leave the other person with my main shelter and sleeping bag, and take a water container, MicroPur tablets, a poncho and/or emergency bivy sack, knife, signaling gear, map, compass, fire starters, hat/gloves/warm layer, LED light, no-cook foods. This can all be carried in a stuff sack if needed. I want to be able to travel light and fast to get help for my sick/injured/trapped companion, but I want to insure my survival too.

After the Katrina disaster, I remember talking about how to survive something like that. Any backpacker could walk out of a post-hurricane mess, IF they had their kit. Walking from New Orleans to a safer place wouldn't be much of a challenge, local law-enforcement issues aside. Of course, the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan bring this to mind, particularly when living on the other major subduction zone on the Ring of Fire.

Martha S.
(kitfox) - F
A friend did this on 03/24/2011 15:19:04 MDT Print View

A friend of mine was in Grand Canyon and abandoned his pack after a water source he was counting on turned up empty.

He's a very strong hiker and believed (correctly) that he could make it out in one long day if he dumped the load. He preferred that to taking two waterless days with the pack.

He might have survived either way, who knows? I do know that I'd have to be pretty frightened to toss every last thing.

Edited by kitfox on 03/24/2011 15:20:37 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Instructors? on 03/24/2011 15:26:38 MDT Print View

Nick says:
"In the situation you described, it would have probably been better for people to stay put and get inside a shelter (if available) than try and cross swollen streams that would have probably decreased in a day or less. It is better to be a day late and let friends/family worry, than die."

Exactly! It amazes me that "wilderness instructors" had abandoned the gear that presumably would have kept them warm and dry, to try to get across a stream in deadly flood conditions! What were they thinking?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Instructors? on 03/24/2011 15:45:33 MDT Print View

"What were they thinking?"

They were stuck on the original goal.

Time and time again, I have read about people getting in dangerous situations because they were set on a destination. Hikers get lost or stuck overnight because they started out too late and didn't turn around in time and were dead set on getting to the peak, or the lake, etc. I've seen drownings on Puget Sound where people got caught out in small boats in bad weather and were set on making it back to the boat launch rather than just running the boat up on a beach.


Put on your poncho, get under a tree, and settle down for a long night. No fun, but you'll survive to complain!

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Re: Instructors? on 03/24/2011 15:52:59 MDT Print View

Not saying this applies to all wilderness instruction, but we've run into groups from nationally known education institutes intentionally go towards fast currents in order to get their students some practice crossing streams and small rivers.

Probably a valuable teaching experience as guides should have 'real world experience' in potentially dangerous situations, unless "fast" is becoming a surprise flash flood situation, as I believe the Sespe and San Rapheal wilderness was this past weekend. Been surprised by snow at the end of April twice in mountains near the Mexican border, so can't judge the groups too harshly.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 16:04:21 MDT Print View

I think I have seen more evidence of that unusual behavior in the winter/cold/storm situation. It goes something like this. The victims allow their primary gear to get slightly wet. They discover this when they pause and open up their packs. Their primary gear gets even wetter, and now it is getting heavier. That vicious cycle continues until the victims decide that they can't go on any farther while still carrying the entire load. So, they jettison all or part of their primary gear and try to make it out to safety with little more than the clothes on their backs. That doesn't work well unless they have very high endurance.

--B.G.--

Levon Jensen
(LevonJensen) - MLife

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Reality TV on 03/24/2011 16:45:04 MDT Print View

They had probably watched some Bear Grylls the night before leaving so they droped there packs pole vaulted the river, and tried to Get out.


In all seriousness, The only reason my gear would leave my back is to keep someone else who could not move warm (possibly a injured day hiker). While i walked the short distance out.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F - M
any time itll keep you alive on 03/24/2011 17:13:50 MDT Print View

when you need to bail off a climb you usually need to leave gear behind

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 17:19:20 MDT Print View

Interesting comments. I am not trying to blame or second guess them, but trying to figure out what they might have been thinking. The Sespe river is the last thing before you get to the cars so maybe they thought they could make it somehow (sounded like they were looking for an alternative way to get to Highway 33) and return later for the gear. I don't have a huge knowledge of the area, but I can't imagine any alternative. You could go up the Sespe Trail but you'll still have to cross the river to get to Highway 33. Maybe there is a bridge somewhere or maybe they were just trying to climb higher and get a cellphone signal. I really don't know. Nobody involved in the event is saying anything. Probably legal advice to them or something. So I was just wondering what their logic might have been.

I would have put up my tent and settled in for a long boring wait. Better than hurrying home so I can get to work on time!

Tom B
(TomHiker) - F
Two instances on 03/24/2011 17:48:29 MDT Print View

This may not be the circumstances you were seeking but...

On my very first backpacking trip I experienced two instances of abandoned gear. The first was a campsite in which the group prior to our use had abandoned their sleeping bags at the campsite. They were big heavy flannel bags and were just left there. We used them as extra cushioning under our pads. (this is at higher elevations out of Tuolumne not some local state park near town)

On the way back when we were about 3 miles from the trailhead one of my brother in laws abandoned his pack so he could run ahead and get a six pack. Didn't care if we carried the pack or left it there. Beer was a higher priority.

All of this being about 45 years ago.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Under what conditions would you abandon your gear? on 03/24/2011 18:10:33 MDT Print View

> Among the groups were some wilderness instruction groups.

What I would have to ask is whether the 'instructors' had sufficient experience to justify that label. Local experience is that they are often the least competent, but fairly big on ego.

Cheers

BRIAN TACKETT
(tacksman99) - F

Locale: So Cal
Sespe River on 03/24/2011 18:13:57 MDT Print View

I was too up in the mountains on the Sespe river, further south on the 33. I was camped out at Rose Valley Campground and we ended up helping a lady suffering from mild hyperthermia. Never the less we all ended up leaving the mountains about 0300 due to the severe weather. That was one wild storm. Im glad that everyone made it out up there in Santa Barbara.

And for the record, WE never left our gear.


Be prepared, or prepare to die.

Brian